Scout Notes: You might be a little intimidated at first. The mezcal, the recurring skull motifs, ...You might be a little intimidated at first. The mezcal, the recurring skull motifs, the giant arthropod scaling the building by the front entrance. But let us assure you: there's no need to be afraid of this Mexican tequila bar in Midtown. The tequila's all top-notch, small-batch stuff handled with care by a mixologist who wants to replace any suppressed college memories with creative, grown-up cocktails. The decor, with skulls, hides, and shotgun shells scattered about, is cozy and convivial, in a rugged kind of way. And thanks to head mixologist Gilbert Marquez, the elixirs of choice here, tequila and mezcal, are taken way beyond any sort of Cabo Wabo concoction that tainted the spring breaks of days gone by. Leave the syrupy marg mix to the amateurs: Escorpion's mixologist is too busy working on cocktails like the Puebla Unida, starring poblano pepper, mezcal, agave nectar, and chipotle-infused salt. The bartenders are skilled at matchmaking your perfect tequila beverage -- I was guided to the Jaliscan Parisien, a light and lively little cocktail with blanco tequila, St. Germaine, and sparkling wine, immediately changing my perspective on how tequila tastes in a drink. Marquez makes it his mission to reintroduce tequila (and its smokey agave-cousin, mezcal) not as a make-your-clothes-fall-off firewater, but as a complex, distinctive spirit meant to be savored, not slammed. And if that means pairing tequila with ingredients like fresh-squeezed fruit juice, tamarind, coconut, and chipotle salt, I'm game.
Of course, it'd be wrong to toss back — er, appreciate — all that tequila without having something to munch on. Escorpion's menu is inspired by the street food of Mexico: think elote, tamales, and lots of tacos. Then there's the ceviche selection, the stars of which might easily be the tuna with watermelon, serrano, and smoked sea salt or the Acapulco version with mahi. The taco menu runs the gamut from carnitas to fried tilapia to braised beef tongue, and the quesadillas, burritos, and tamales on the menu are equally creative. It's clear that Escorpion takes their authentic Mexican food just as seriously as their drinks... i.e., if you're looking for a dingy spot to sip saccharine margs out of a curly straw while eating fresh-from-the-freezer enchiladas, look elsewhere. But if you happen to be searching for an unabashedly bad-ass new cantina where you can tear up some tongue tacos and get a delicious crash course in appreciating the prized elixir of the agave plant, Escorpion's your spot. Just don't get stung on your way out.
Tuna Watermelon Ceviche, $9
Lengua Taco, $3.50 (one) - $12.50 (four)
Braised Goat Taco, $4 (one) - $14 (four)
Pork Tamale, $4 (one) - $14 (four)
Santa Ana Fruit Cart
The Jaliscan Parisien
Monday - Thursday, 11:30 a.m. - 1 a.m.
Friday - Saturday, 11:30 a.m. - 2 a.m.
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. - 12 a.m.